Thursday 22 October 2015

Organization: We Did Not Say Do Not Burn the American Flag

Rooz Online

In its latest public statement, the coordinating council of Iran’s Islamic Propagation Organization (IPO) writes that news reports about banning the burning of the American flag on the November 4th commemoration of the US embassy takeover in 1979 are not right.

As reported by Fars news agency affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) the public relations office of the Islamic Propagation Organization has denied reports that the burning of the American flag on November 4th has been banned and stressed that the organization has never issued a circular to this effect. The Statement reads, “This year, the November 4th ceremony is the action of the Iranian nation against arrogance (a reference to the US) and as announced by the leader of the revolution and the views of the founder of the Islamic republic, the Iranian nation continues to view the US as its number one enemy. Today the US is still the same Great Satan, therefore, on November 4th, the Iranian nation will be present in Tehran and 770 other towns of the country against world arrogance led by America.”

Last week, Fars news agency had quoted cleric GhasemAli Majidi, the head of the Islamic Propagation Organization of the town of Kashmar to have said, “Last year we received a letter from the central coordinating committee of the IPO to the effect that the American flag should not be burned because this is an official country and that only the flag of Israel should be burned.” A similar report had been published/posted by other news agencies as well but they were removed as soon as the latest denial by the IPO was published.

Burning of the American flag and the Death to America chants are part of the image that Iran wants to present to its international and domestic audiences that it is anti-American. During this year’s UN General Assembly meeting, US President Barack Obama said chanting Death to America will not create jobs in Iran and will not make Iran safer, some rightwing groups in Iran called for even more chants of Death to America in the country.

At that time, Javan newspaper which is run by the IRGC made a reference to Obama’s remarks at the UN and similar remarks that were made by the Secretary of State John Kerry and wrote, “A change in people’s views is precisely the thing that Obama, Kerry and other senior officials of the imperialist camp desire, which is why they are stressed the need to stop this chant.” The note further said that this chant of the Islamic revolution had “regional and beyond-regional impact” and should be viewed as a tool to challenge America’s international interests. The purpose of calls by the two American officials, the note argued, was indicative of their efforts to “change the postures,” “change the behavior,” and “change the policies” of the Islamic republic.

Since this chant is viewed as a central theme of the Islamic republic, changing this slogan will elevate the sensitivities of Iranian hardliners. A few months ago when some news outlets published reports that the Death to America graffiti had been cleaned up on the walls of the former US embassy in Tehran, a similar response followed in the news.

This image of being anti-American is so important for the ideological elements of the Islamic republic of Iran that even after ayatollah Khamenei – “the supreme leader of Iran” - announced his “heroic flexibility” concept to allow the country’s negotiators and officials to talk with the US and the West about the country’s nuclear issues and international sanctions, he did not change any of his anti-American verbiage in his subsequent remarks, thus continuing to present himself to be anti-American.

The US (relations with it or even negotiations with it) has become one of the top ideological issues in the Islamic republic of Iran. Just a few weeks after the Vienna July nuclear deal, ayatollah Khamenei had stressed that he would not allow any closer ties with the US because of the nuclear deal. “When we talk of the enemy, we are not talking about some imaginary concept. We mean the ‘system of arrogance’ (a term that in Iranian lexicon means the United States of America), which means arrogant powers. Those who lead this system are the enemies. If you want a material manifestation of that it is the United States of America,” Khamenei said.

In more recent weeks, Khamenei has even banned any further talks with the US. “They are after talks with Iran. But this is only an excuse. Talks are a means for influence. Talks are a means to impose their demands. We only agreed on talks over the nuclear issue alone. So the talks took place. With the grace of God, our negotiators presented themselves well in this. We will negotiate with the whole world but not with America,” he said. Just last week, speaking to a group of Revolutionary Guard commanders he again repeated his call. “We are not against the principle of talks; we are against talks with America. Talks between Iran and America mean influence and they want to open their channels and instruments to impose themselves (on us). Today, the huge propaganda machinery is in the hands of America. Today the Zionist movement is intensely anti-human and against logic. Along with America, they are in cahoots. Talks with them mean opening the door so that they can influence the country in economic, cultural political and security affairs,” he said.

But this latest ban is problematic because years earlier when Khamenei’s public calls had banned talks with America, in secret he had ordered his senior aides to actually conduct secret talks with the US; talks that ultimately resulted in the 2013 Geneva preliminary agreement on nuclear talks. And as the secret talks progressed, Khamenei continued his public anti-American vitriols. For example in early 2013, he publicly said, “Talks are a deceptive act; they are not real. I am not a diplomat, but a revolutionary. I speak directly. When a diplomat talks he says one thing but means another. I speak clearly and sincerely. Talks will be meaningful when the other party displays its sincerity. When the other side is not sincere and talks of pressure and talks, these two do not go together. You want to point a gun at the Iranian nation and say talk or we will fire.” He then asked, “What should be talk for?”

Months later, Iran’s former foreign minister and the head of the Atomic Energy Organization revealed that Iran had been talking with the US since many months before these remarks. He specially said that Iran had had a number of rounds of secret talks with US before the election of Hassan Rouhani as president.




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